Malcolm M. Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium Web Archive

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Nick Gier
MRIC 2010/11

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Nick Gier

The Tangled (and sometimes Violent) Web of Dalai Lama Politics

Nick Gier
Professor Emeritus, Philosophy
April 12- SUB Gold Room

Abstract: While much work has been done on religiously motivated violence in the Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) religions, very little attention has been focused on the Asian religions. As with the Abrahamic religions, the fusion of religious and national identity in Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalism has led to violence committed in the name of religion.

In this talk I will discuss the relations between Tibetan Buddhist lamas and secular authorities, especially those connected with Mongolian militarism. I will then focus on the problems inherent in a political philosophy based on a doctrine of reincarnated religious leaders. A case study of the Bhutanese lama-king Shabdrung (1594-1651), who at one time had three recognized incarnated descendants, demonstrates the fragility of this doctrine of political and religious legitimacy.

The current Dalai Lama has been very frank about the problems of reincarnated religious leaders in Tibetan history, and his decision to break the ties between religion and politics is both courageous and wise.  It may even pave the way for a resolution of the impasse between the Dalai Lama and the Beijing government.


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